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Should children testify in family court?

On Behalf of | Dec 19, 2022 | Family Law

In California, the law does not require children to participate in family court. But, there are some guidelines and laws that will help the court decide whether having the child testify in court is in the child’s best interest. Afterward, it will be up to the parents to determine if they think having their child testify is a good decision.

What are the guidelines for a child’s participation?

The child should express interest in testifying, and a judicial officer must determine if it is in the child’s best interest. The judicial officer will consider these things:

  • The child can comprehend and form an opinion on custody or visitation preference.
  • The child can understand the weight and nature of testimony.
  • The child’s testimony should be relevant.

These are some other things that the judicial officer will take into consideration. But, if the child is 14 years or older, the judicial officer must hear from the child though there are exceptions.

What are the effects on the child?

The parents should consider the short-term and long-term effects it could have on the child. Getting divorced already has an emotional toll on children, but testifying can create even more problems. Having a child choose between parents or testify against a parent can emotionally affect the child because it may cause the child to stop having a healthy relationship with both parents. Testifying may not even be necessary, but even if it is, the child may resent their parents for being in the middle.

What are the alternatives?

There are also neutral parties that can help the case. Examples could be relatives or friends of the family. Since having a child testify could have negative long-term effects, having a third party testify may be the best option.

Which option is better?

Although it is a tough decision, it is a case-by-case situation, but most importantly, the parents should consider their child’s well-being.